THE funeral of a prominent figure at Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club took place on Friday.
Sarah Watts, from Durrington, was a well-known personality at the championship club, playing an instrumental part in the Seagulls’ return to West Sussex, after the club was forced to play in Gillingham for a number of years, as well as working to eradicate homophobia in football.
Sarah died aged 49, on January 6, from a brain stem tumour – just weeks before her 50th birthday. She leaves behind two sisters, Mandy and Karen.
Mandy Ward, 51, of Goring-by-Sea, said: “As a sister she was very warm-hearted, caring and compassionate. If I needed her, which invariably I did with two children and a couple of pets, she was always there on the end of the phone.
“I would say Brighton and Hove Albion was her life since she was quite young really. She went to one game with a friend and that was it, she was hooked.”
The sisters used to visit the Goldstone Ground to watch the Seagulls when they were teenagers.
Sarah became secretary of the Brighton & Hove Albion Supporters Club in 1983 and was heavily involved with high-profile campaigns throughout the nineties and up until her death.
Key campaigns included an anti-racism campaign, the Brighton and Hove Albion ‘survival’ campaign, the ‘Falmer for All’ campaign and an awareness campaign to tackle homophobia.
Sarah was also a committed Christian.
Mandy said: “Within an hour of knowing she was terminally ill and was going to die within weeks, she said ‘this has always been my pathway and I want people to pray for my pathway’.
“She was so positive, she passed that on to all her close friends and family – this amazing inner peace. That really helped all the people close to her. We were in bits but she was totally dignified and graceful about the whole thing.”
As a mark of respect, Brighton fans held a minute’s applause on the 50th minute of a game against Brentford at the Amex Stadium, and the club printed a tribute in the match day programme.
Sarah’s funeral took place at St Andrew’s Church in Ferring. Around 200 people attended the service, which was designed by Sarah herself. Guests wore football shirts and colourful clothing, and the pallbearers each wore a Brighton & Hove Albion shirt.